Preface: I have a feeling I will get very opinionated in this post…please disregard any slander or total opposites of your own cherished opinions.
About three or four years ago, when I began to give this whole writing thing a serious go, I did quite a bit of reading and studying to see what it takes to be a successful writer of fiction. And no matter what source I was reading, one piece of advice seemed the same no matter where I looked: read, read, read.
This was not a problem for me, seeing as how I love to read. The problem, I found, is that it typically helps to read outside your genre of choice. It is also suggested that you read what is popular in order to get a taste for what the public (and, therefore, agencies and publishers) were interested in.
So I tried to start reading more non-horror fiction. It wasn’t too painful; after all, my favorite novel of all time is Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, a very non-horror tale. I did discover a few things during this time. I learned that I simply can not read Tom Clancy. Clive Cussler, either. Tami Hoag isn’t really all that bad and, from what little I’ve read, there is some truth behind the Michael Crichton hype (Sphere is actually in my top 20 books).
It was also during this time that I discovered Scott Smith. Most of you probably know him by The Ruins. It amazes me how many people don’t know that he wrote A Simple Plan years before that. I read that 300+ page book in two sittings. It was that good.
Anyway, the part I still have trouble with is reading popular fiction for the sake of my craft. It is because of this responsibility that Dan Brown owes me 4 or 5 hours of my life back for having wasted it on reading his terrible claim to fame The DaVinci Code. However, I was delighted to find that there were legitimate reasons for the best-selling success behind books like Gregory McGuire’s Wicked and, of course, Cormac MacCarthy’s The Road (also on my top 20 list).
As most of you know, I fought the Harry Potter phenomena kicking and screaming. Now that I am 5 books in, I see where the frenzy comes from but still hesitate to call J.K Rowling a “great” writer. (Seriously…why does it take Harry and co. 200 pages to return to Hogwarts in Order of the Phenix)?
Similarly, as part of this duty I feel that writers should have in order to keep with the “in” trends in the publishing world, I have finally caved in to my wife’s wishes and started reading Twilight. I put it off for a few days because I wanted to go into it with an open mind. And when I did finally start reading it, I wasn’t all that impressed. Yet, when I put the book down, I realized that it was way past my bedtime and that I had just read through 140 pages when I had only intended to read a chapter or two.
I see this in the same way that I see the Harry Potter books. The story-telling is pretty good but the writers aren’t as great as they are being hyped to be (in my opinion). As a matter of fact, (again, just my opinion), I would go so far as to say that I would rather have my fingernails removed than have to read more than one page of Stephenie Meyer’s dialogue. I also believe that she missed the day in Creative Writing when they taught that you don’t have to reveal everything. When someone does something as simple as walk outside, it shouldn’t take 5 pages to describe it. But, as I said, it’s addictive reading and I don’t really know why.
There…I feel as if I’ve admitted some dark secret. Anyway, the long way around to the point I was trying to make is this: are there any other horror or dark fiction writers out there that feel that it is, in a way, a writer’s responsibility to read what is popular and try to learn from marketing trends and popular styles?